no surprises

Ever start reading a book and within the first few chapters you knew, just knew exactly how it was going to end? (Now keep in mind that I reserve the word hate for use with truly vile, atrocious unforgivable crimes against humanity.) I fucking hate that.

If I’m going to invest the time away from my life, my family and escape to a fantasized world to soothe my imagination’s longing, is it really too much to ask that I not know the ending until I get there? Surprise me. Startle me. Confound me. Hell, confuse me. But don’t patronize me by catering to the lowest common denominator.

Maybe it’s the industry being terrified that trying new things will lower the bottom line. Maybe it’s that our culture is too inundated with the familiar that we as a whole, don’t want to be challenged. Are we really that enamored with predictability? If we switch on the TV we’re pacified with the umpteenth season of the Bachelor/ette. Is anyone surprised that in the group of attention hungry dude/dudettes there is at least one asshat? (at the very least) Do we really believe that true love will develop through televised group dating? Hey! That one Kardashian’s sister’s baby daddy still wont marry her and he’s still acting like a dick! Shocker.

…and the crowd goes ambivalent.

I just read today that a major production company is planning on making a prequel to a much beloved movie without even asking for any input from the book’s original author himself. Why? It’s quite simple, M O N E Y. Story apparently doesn’t matter. Content makes no difference at all. Let’s just take a name that we know is already successful and familiar to everyone, use and abuse it and shove it down everyone’s throats hoping they’ll eat it up. Unfortunately a lot of folks will do just that.
That’s why I avoid mainstream entertainment for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, authors like Dan Brown are incredible. I am most definitely a big fan. Many of his books take space on my shelves. However, I personally prefer to tread into more unfamiliar waters where I have absolutely no idea what the next chapter or scene is going to bring.

I don’t need to have my fictions spoon fed to me. I don’t need every answer to every question right now Now NOw NOW! Leave a few unanswered here and there, that’s okay. That makes the story all the more enticing to me. It lingers longer in my mind with the wondering.

I like scary movies where you don’t necessarily see the monster. I don’t need to see the blood and guts in every single scene. We already know how the young couple making out in the abandoned shopping center parking lot after the dance is going to end up. I don’t even need to provide a lame description for you because you’ve seen the same scene hundreds of times. Sure, a few small details may change like the chainsaw, the axe or the mask the deranged killer is wearing. Other than that it’s the same fucking thing over and again.

Scare me with atmosphere. Make my ears shudder with unexpected sound. Let shadows hide the nightmare in dark obscurity. Leave me reaching out with the answers just beyond my fingertips. Let my imagination stir and find horror in the not knowing. That’s what really scares all of us. Isn’t it?
Sure, a well timed BOO can do the trick and shock us at the right moment. That’s all in good fun. But that’s startling, not frightening. I’m more terrified of the unknown. Why did this happen? How? What did this? Where did it come from? Puzzling for the answers. That’s the fun part for me.

The frustrating thing is that even though I knew exactly how this particular book was going to end, I read the whole damn thing. I wanted so badly to be wrong. With every turn of the page I went down my mental checklist clicking off the answers with my imaginary No. 2 Pencil on my invisible standardized test. I guess if the book had been poorly written it wouldn’t be bothering me so much.

The problem is that it was a really good book. I enjoyed it. I couldn’t put it down. Man it pissed me off! Or maybe the problem really is that I need to unseat myself from my high horse and shut my big mouth. Not every book needs to be House of Leaves or The Straw Men. It would be so much cooler though. Right?

Shutting up now.

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I don’t understand. No matter how much this James Holmes person explains why he did what he did, I will not understand it. If he turns out to be an abused child who got picked on in school every day? Yes I will feel terrible for him, but I will still not understand. The purity of his selfishness. Thinking that taking other people’s lives will somehow make him feel better? I do not understand. My brain is just not capable.

We know that there is Evil in the world. We see it every single day. War, murder, rape, molestation, torture… Evil is a reality there is no escape from. Evil does not care what God you believe in or if you have no faith at all. Evil has no opinion on quantity or quality of life. The most terrifying part is that Evil is not random.

Evil makes plans. Evil is methodical in it’s execution. Every single detail is microscopically focused and tweaked to perfection.

Unfortunately we in America are only too recently growing accustomed to Evil’s tendrils creeping into our daily lives. Working in tall office buildings we twinge whenever an airplane passes by. We duck into subway trains with voices in the back of our minds hoping that it will not be the last time we see the sun. We send our children to school trusting that other parents love and nurture their own offspring enough to teach them to do no harm. And now we go to the movies to escape our troubles and we will find ourselves searching the dark corners of that same auditorium for the boogeyman.

I love scary stories. I read them and watch them as often as I can. They provide a certain adrenaline rush that I can’t seem to find anywhere else in life. I guess you could say I’m an addict. So much so, that the words I string together are an attempt at bringing that same feeling to anyone who reads them.

My wife loves to read true crime stories. Books about real crimes and serial killers and things like that. I can’t go there. It’s too much for me. I prefer to escape into terrors that I know deep down inside are too fantastical to really happen. Monsters and ghosts and unexplained phenomena. I can take that kind of scary. I’ll take my nightmares from the page or screen and not the real world thank you very much.

Things like what just happened in Colorado are unexplainable to me. They make me sit on the couch sucking my thumb, rocking back and forth making sure my kids are not out of eyesight. How do people think it’s acceptable to do that? Too many questions. Too many tears. Not enough answers.

As a species humans have always been violent. We are animals. Hard as our ego may struggle against that thought, our DNA is only a few strands away from the jellyfish and the cockroach and the cobra. The difference is that unlike that hooded snake, we have enough foresight to plan our strikes instead of merely falling back on instinct.

This post may be coming too soon for some people, and I understand that. If it offends or upsets I apologize. As someone who is trying to make a living by frightening people, the events of last night are what truly and deeply terrify me. I hope you hold your loved one’s close and help make the world a safer place today. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims and their families.

Peace and love sounds corny these days, but those are the two things our lives need more of. Now more than ever.

summer school, hotness in motion, making friends and other exploding things

Here we are smack dang in the middle of the coldest summer in history where the global warming doubters are being proven so… completely…correct? Anyway! I’m sitting on the couch watching a dvr’d episode of Wipeout with my youngest while my oldest is at summer school. Why am I not upstairs writing you ask? Well, it might be that the only room in the new place without any a/c is, you guessed it, my new office. It’s a cool and comfy gozillion degrees in there. I have a fan blowing, but hot air pushed around by swirling blades of plastic is still…hot air that’s…moving.

In our last episode I complained about our lack of good quality Internet service. What? Me? Complain? I know, I know it’s crazy talk. Well, there has been some progress. Yes. After four visits by four different techs, we seem to have made the astonishing discovery that the problem is not actually on our end. Madness! Anarchy! Explosions, guns, knives, bullets and other violent things. Everything seems to be working okay now (knockonwood) with brief moments of interruption here and there. Better than before most certainly!

After my family goes to bed at night, to stay cool I’ve been “borrowing” my son’s Netbook to do my writing. I’ll sit at the dining room table in front of the window unit and punch the keys until my eyes blur over. I’m making slow but steady progress on one idea I’m pretty excited about. It might actually turn into another book length project. I’ll have to see where it takes me as I go. Cross your fingers!

Yesterday we went to Oakland Beach. No, not the one in California. It’s here in R.I. Beaches on the Atlantic side are so different than where I grew up. In L.A. the water was cold and because of the terrain, the underwater shelf was steep and close to the shore. Here, we went walking out for what seemed like forever and our feet never left the bottom. It felt like we were wading in a heated pool! I highly recommend it. The kids had a blast.

Also, people on the beach out here are friendly. Another concept I need to get used to. Nice people who say hello and talk to you. And yes, even without my shirt on! Without a six pack and resembling nothing remotely close to an underwear model, people entered into conversation with me. An altogether not completely uncomfortable human interaction. I must study this further!

And now I must away back into the world of promoting!

Speaking of which…
the Key to everything

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boxes reviews and short stories oh my!

ImageHere I am, still crawling out from under this ginormous pile of cardboard and packing tape.  The Internet service provider came by for the third time this week to get us up and running again yesterday (so far so good knockonwood!).  And now I’m sitting in the storage room that will hopefully one day become a comfortable place to work typing letters on a screen that might just allow me to post on line.?! (I’m not sure what my heart feels that last sentence requires at the end, so pick your favorite one and run with it)

I buried myself into the ones and zeroes yesterday to attempt a game of catch-up on everything in the virtual world of news/blogs/books/music/news/memes/and lol’s.  Apparently some guy named Tom and his much younger wife named Katy are breaking up?  Whew! If that’s all I missed I don’t feel so left out. 

Then I checked my email.  Apparently there are some things going on in the world of Alex that I’m pretty excited about!  Thought I’d share with you all in case you wanna know…

First is that the great folks over at FrontRowLit have given my book and myself some great space for pluggage.  Please stop by and take a look at

AND it just became official last night that Black Lantern Publishing is going to be featuring my short story “Josephine” in the August issue of their monthly magazine!  You can visit them at I will send out more information about the issue and how to get your eyes on a copy as the release date looms closer!

As of now, that’s all the news fit to blog for me.  Off to make lunch for the kids and walk the dog and do the dishes and make the beds and take a nap and (maybe) do some writing…


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the off-ternet world

Finally we’re in our new place. (And the crowd goes ambivalent.)

Every muscle hurts. Every bone is sore. And I wasn’t even able to do any of the heavy lifting! It’s been a nutty few weeks. We shifted all the boxes from the old place to the new. Sat down on the couch for a greater and then my sister showed up from California with my nephew. We knew they were coming, and it really was a fantastic visit. We went to the lake for the 4th and then to Boston yesterday. The kids loved spending time together and I realized once again how much I miss my big sister. Our visits are too few and too far apart.

However, now I have to figure out how I’m going to get my life reorganized and moving forward again. This disaster zone featured below, is my somehow-to-be-office. YAY!


Needless to say, I am finding the process subterrific. I’ll get there eventually. For now, I am eternally grateful my son has this iPad I can borrow when he is watching t.v. Those few days I spent in the off-ternet world were surreal and frustrating. Our cable/phone/Internet provider decided to forget to show up the first two days of our move, then made us wait for the weekend plus an extra day before they deigned to arrive and provide us with their sub par connections. Less than pleased could be a polite way to describe my feeling on the subject.

This unchosen time unplugged did give me an interesting vantage point on our culture’s move toward a more technological work and social lifestyle however. I wasn’t able to Facebook or twit or blog or email or yahoo or google or youtube or even yahoo. For the first few hours it felt refreshing. No buzz or hum behind my eyes from the constancy of lighted screens burning into retinas. The sky seemed just a tiny bit bluer.

Then the itch showed up. My fingertips ached to press into plastic keys. My palms wondered why the sharp corners of wood weren’t pressing deep grooves into their bottoms. My neck ached to be straining in awkward positions to read words written by strange people in strange lands. To view photos of politicians and animals performing indecent acts together misquoting movies and lymrics.

I couldn’t call for help because we had no phone. I scratched. I paced. I stared at the piles of boxes willing them to be open and empty with everything in its right place. I felt an odd kinship with the junkies I used to see walking around Hollywood Boulevard willing to do almost anything for their next fix.

When the knock came on the door on Tuesday the adrenaline pumped through me. I threw the door open and all but kicked the poor tech up the stairs to set everything up for us. Of course it took him several hours because the folks back at the home office didn’t file our paperwork correctly. But he eventually did it and left after refusing the vodka tonic we offered him as thanks.

Now I’m back online trying to get caught up with the world feeling very put of touch with everything. Hopefully that will. Hangs soon and I’ll look at all the new cartoons making fun of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes breaking up without any sense of surprise. Until then, I’m going upstairs to cross my arms, twist my nose and blink those boxes open and empty.